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Phillies honor veteran, breast cancer survivor

Phillies honor veteran, breast cancer survivor

Phillies honor veteran, breast cancer survivor
PHILADELPHIA -- It's not hard to understand how Barbie Brown became the Phillies Honorary Bat Girl for Sunday's game against the Padres at Citizens Bank Park.

She was in the Marines for 17 years and was deployed in Afghanistan as a gunnery sergeant when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She was transferred to the Walter Reed medical facility in Washington, D.C. where she underwent multiple surgeries.

Now, still undergoing chemotherapy, she devotes herself to a variety of causes trying to promote breast cancer awareness.

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"I do breast cancer awareness runs and a bicycle ride from Philly to D.C. I run marathons with the Freedom Team of Wounded Veterans. Just all over the place," she said. "All the amputees and wounded veterans go to marathons together. The blind runners.

"I work for a non-profit [Kill The Beast in Washington] that helps spread breast cancer awareness, trying to get focus on the cure. The support aspect is out there, and we're focusing on the cure."

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She's also a lifelong baseball fan from Scranton, Pa., where the Red Barons were once the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate.

So when she saw the opportunity on MLB.com to sign up for the contest, she jumped at it. And when she got the call that she had won the vote, she was thrilled.

She had the opportunity to chat with Phillies right-hander Joe Blanton, whose mother is a breast cancer survivor, in the dugout and was introduced to the crowd in a pregame ceremony.

Brown's father and uncles were Marines; she and her two sisters enlisted the same day.

"At the time it was peace time. There wasn't much going on. So after being in for a long time and something happens, you're ready for that chance to do something," she said.

"[Going to Afghanistan] was kind of scary because on the news you see what the grunts go through. I'm in the aviation. We're in the backfield so we don't see too much of the action."

There were a few perks. For example, she met celebrities like Lance Armstrong and Robin Williams when they visited the troops.

That all eventually led to another perk, becoming an Honorary Bat Girl on Mother's Day. And it's difficult to imagine a better choice.

Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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